Review: ‘Public Enemy Number One,’ starring Ice-T, Dan Baum, Ethan Nadlemann, Keith Stroup, Jack Cole and Marsha ‘Keith’ Schuchard

June 12, 2020

by Carla Hay

Ice-T in “Public Enemy Number One” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Public Enemy Number One” 

Directed by Robert Rippberger

Culture Representation: The documentary “Public Enemy Number One” takes a historical look at the “war on drugs” the United States, by interviewing several experts and commentators (who are mostly white male Americans), such activists, authors and past and present law enforcement.

Culture Clash: The documentary takes the position that the war on drugs has been an abysmal failure and that U.S. drug laws need major reforms.

Culture Audience: “Public Enemy Number One” will appeal primarily to people who believe that certain drugs (such as marijuana) should be decriminalized, but the movie also should be informative to people who aren’t aware of the long-term social impact of the war on drugs.

Keith Stroup in “Public Enemy Number One” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Several documentaries have been made in the 21st century about the U.S. government’s “war on drugs” and almost all of these documentaries come to the same conclusion: The war has failed and is a reflection of the racial inequality in the criminal justice system. Most people who buy and sell drugs in the United States are white, but most people who are in U.S. prisons (whose numbers are growing) on drug charges are black and Latino. “Public Enemy Number One” (directed by Robert Rippberger) takes a chronological look at how various U.S. presidential administrations handled the war on drugs, beginning with the administration of Richard Nixon to the administration of Barack Obama. There really isn’t anything new uncovered in “Public Enemy Number One,” but the documentary might be informative to a lot of people who are unaware of these issues.

“Public Enemy Number One” follows the traditional documentary format of mixing archival footage with new interviews. The movie has a clear agenda to advocate for decriminalization of certain drugs (particularly marijuana) and aims to shine a light on how the prison system has become a big business that relies on racism to thrive. (Ava DuVernay’s Emmy-winning 2016 Netflix documentary “13th” extensively covers this topic of racial inequality in the American criminal justice system.)

The Nixon administration was the first to formally declare a “war on drugs,” with Nixon’s notorious 1971 speech that drug abuse was “public enemy number one” for America. It was a way for the federal government to create a new law enforcement agency—the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which on the surface was supposed to enforce the illegal drug trade.

Drug Police Alliance founder Ethan Nadlemann says that the DEA was really just the Nixon administration’s way of trying to control civil unrest over the Vietnam War and race inequality, because the DEA disproportionately targeted black people and radical protesters of the war for arrests. Dan Baum, author of “Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure,” says in the documentary that the late John Ehrlichman, who was Nixon’s counsel and Assistant to the President for domestic Affairs, admitted this government targeting in a 1993 interview that Baum did with Ehrlichman.

Baum comments that the DEA is “half-law enforcement, half-Hollywood. They go out Elliott Ness-ing around the country and making sure that the cameras are there.” The arrests of black people and left-wing radicals during the Nixon administration were done for a show for the media. Those media images and reports then created negative stereotypes that radical left-wingers and black people were mainly responsible for the drug problem in the United States.

Dr. Robert Dupont, who was the U.S. Drug Czar from 1973 to 1977, says in the documentary that he was told he would be fired if he ever went against Nixon’s anti-marijuana agenda. Jack Cole, co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, remembers his days as an undercover agent in New Jersey, where he would bust small-time drug users who used drugs in small friend groups. Cole says that the biggest mistake that the government made back then was to classify all illegal drugs as the same.

It was during the Nixon administration that National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) was formed in 1970. Most of the members were white people with professional jobs (such as lawyers), thereby contradicting the media’s untrue stereotype at the time that most marijuana advocates were radical hippie types. The main goals of NORML were to decriminalize or legalize marijuana in all 50 states, and not put marijuana in the same category as drugs such as heroin or cocaine. NORML founder Keith Stroup says in the documentary: “We thought we would be finished [with our goals] within five years of 1978.”

After Nixon was impeached and resigned in disgrace in 1974, U.S. culture during the rest of the 1970s (under the administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter) had a more relaxed and accepting attitude toward illegal drug use, particularly marijuana. The 1978 Cheech and Chong marijuana stoner movie “Up in Smoke” is named as an example of a mainstream movie that couldn’t have been made before the 1970s.

NORML founder Stroup admits that during the late 1970s, NORML took a hit in its credibility when Stroup began feuding with Dr. Peter Bourne (who was U.S. Drug Czar from 1977 to 1978) over paraquat, a toxic chemical that is mostly used as an herbicide. NORML accused the U.S. government and the Florida state government of deliberately spraying paraquat over marijuana plants, in order to poison marijuana users. The conspiracy theory was later debunked, and Stroup admits in the documentary that he was wrong. Bourne comments on the paraquat controversy: “I believe it was blatant nonsense.”

The U.S. administration eras of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush marked a return to stricter drug laws and less tolerant views on drugs in society. Nancy Reagan made the “Just Say No” campaign famous. More parents groups were formed as lobbyists to government to make stricter drug laws. The shocking cocaine-related death of rising basketball star Len Bias in 1986 is also mentioned in the documentary as an important milestone in American society’s backlash against illegal drugs during the 1980s. And, of course, the epidemic of crack cocaine began in the ’80s, destroying many families and communities.

Rapper/actor Ice-T (who is an executive producer of “Public Enemy Number One”) explains why drugs and poverty are intertwined in so many African American communities: “It all starts off with no hope, lack of education, not being able to actually enter the system.” He adds that many people in these communities think, “‘I can’t make a living wage, but over here is a way.’ And you try to do that, and you end up in prison or with your life devastated.”

Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, also attributes the increase in drug-related arrests in the 1980s to another factor: more money for law enforcement. Franklin says, “That’s why so many cops liked Ronald Reagan—because we got raises.” Franklin and others in the documentary point out that illegal drugs are the only type of crime in the U.S. were police officers get paid extra for arrests.

The Bill Clinton administration of the 1990s gets heavy criticism for implementing mandatory minimum sentences (also known as the “three strikes” law), where the punishments often don’t fit the crimes. Mandatory minimum sentences are usually cited as one of the biggest examples of why the war on drugs has failed. Nadlemann calls mandatory minimum sentences “McCarthyism on steroids.” In recent years, Clinton has admitted that the mandatory minimum sentencing law was a mistake.

People interviewed on the judicial side say the war on drugs has failed because of agendas and ambitions of government politicians. James Gray, a former California Supreme Court judge, calls the war on drugs: “Great politics, lousy government.” Gerry Goldstein, a U.S. Supreme Court trial attorney, says there’s little incentive to change most drug laws if the general public thinks these laws are working. “Politicians want to get re-elected, plain and simple.”

The 2000s (when the George W. Bush administration was in power for most of the decade) saw the continued rise of the U.S. prison population, due in large part to mandatory minimum sentences. Prisoners are essentially used as little more than slave labor. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition founder Cole doesn’t mince words: “The war on drugs is the new Jim Crow. It’s aimed at controlling black folks … and making money off of it.”

That doesn’t mean that all people in prison are innocent and don’t deserve to be there, say the experts in the documentary. It means that black people, more than any other racial group in America, tend to get arrested and punished more harshly for the same crimes that other racial groups also commit, according to Perry Tarrant of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement. Ice -T comments, “There’s a lot of money being spent to not solve the problem.”

“The easiest way for people to understand the absurdity of the war on drugs is to focus on marijuana,” says Nadlemann. Under the Obama administration, more states began to legalize marijuana. The Obama administration also made attempts to lower federal sentences for crimes involving marijuana. Because “Public Enemy Number One” only covers the war on drugs up until the Obama administration, the documentary unfortunately looks very dated.

However, the documentary does a good job of presenting both sides of the issue, by including viewpoints of anti-drug activists Those who are interviewed are “Parents, Peers and Pot” author Marsha “Keith” Schuchard; Parents/Pride Movement founder Thomas Gleaton; Dr. Howard Samuels of The Hills Treatment Center; Smart Approaches to Marijuana founder Kevin Sabet; and Ian McDonald, U.S. Drug Czar from 1987 to 1988, who says, “Marijuana’s risks and dangers were being ignored.”

“Public Enemy Number One” packs in a lot of information in its total running time of 70 minutes. People who’ve seen similar documentaries or news reports about the war on drugs probably won’t learn anything new. But for people who don’t know anything about this aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system, this documentary is a good place to start without having to make a big time commitment.

Gravitas Ventures released “Public Enemy Number One” on digital and VOD on June 12, 2020.

Review: ‘Dosed,’ starring Adrianne, Mark Howard, Trevor Millar, Garyth Moxey, Mark Haden and Geoff Acres

March 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Mark Howard (right) with Adrianne in “Dosed” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama/Mangurama)

“Dosed”

Directed by Tyler Chandler

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Vancouver, the documentary “Dosed” advocates for the use of plant-based psychedelics to treat hardcore drug addiction and mental-health issues, with an emphasis on white people from the middle and upper classes.

Culture Clash: This entire movie portrays pharmaceutical medicines as the enemy and psychedelics as the best solution to certain people’s addictions and mental illnesses.

Culture Audience: “Dosed” won’t change the minds of people who already believe the agenda that this movie is pushing, but for other people who need to hear both sides of an issue in order to make an informed decision, “Dosed” falls irresponsibly short.

Adrianne in “Dosed” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama/Mangurama)

“Dosed” is the type of one-sided agenda documentary that needs to be viewed with a healthy amount of skepticism and common sense. It’s clear that the filmmakers (including director Tyler Chandler) are not objective in the least and have no background in journalism, since they’ve deliberately chosen not to present different sides of a very serious issue that can severely affect people’s health. The filmmakers’ agenda is to make people believe that using plant-based psychedelics (such as Iboga and Ibogaine) is the “best” and “safest” way to treat drug addictions and mental illnesses, such as clinical depression.

As “proof,” the documentary follows just one person who goes through this “treatment”: a Vancouver woman in her 30s named Adrianne (her last name is not mentioned in the film), a longtime friend of Chandler who says in the film that she has a long history (more than 20 years) of drug addiction (heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs, you name it). Adrianne also has psychological issues, such as clinical depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because Adrianne frequently has suicidal thoughts, Chandler decided to make a documentary about her desperate attempt to get help for her serious medical problems by showing what happens when Adrianne uses a great deal of the psychedelic drug Iboga.

At least Chandler admitted this “I’m filming a movie about my friend” bias upfront in the beginning of the film, but it does not help the movie’s credibility when people see how irresponsibly so many things are handled in this documentary. You don’t have to have a medical background to see there’s almost nothing science-based about the “conclusions” that the so-called psychedelic “experts” in this documentary make about Adrianne’s medical condition when they “treat” her, so it’s no surprise that she ends up in the emergency room. At least the filmmakers were honest enough to not edit out Adrianne’s disastrous trip to the ER, because it shows how this medical emergency was absolutely avoidable and due in large part to the bungling of the so-called psychedelic “experts” who were involved in her “therapy.”

Most of the so-called “experts” who are interviewed in the documentary do not seem to have any legitimate medical/scientific university degrees. One of the few exceptions is clinical psychologist Rosalind Watts, who does psychedelic research at Imperial College in London, England, and who is not involved in Adrianne’s “treatment.” Watts talks about how using psychedelics can be a tool (not a crutch) in treating depression, but she emphasizes that psychedelic usage is not for everyone, and it requires a lot more work and practice in therapy for people to overcome problems like drug addiction and mental illnesses. She also doesn’t claim, like most of the non-medical people in this movie do, that taking illegal psychedelic drugs will help keep drug addicts sober, because any fool can see that taking illegal psychedelics is not being “sober.”

Two of the people interviewed in “Dosed” are Mark Haden, who’s identified as a “psychedelic researcher” from Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Canada, and Mark Howard, one of the people with a dubious background who was involved in Adrianne’s psychedelic usage. (Howard was present during Adrianne’s psychedelic “therapy session” that ended with her trip to the ER.)

Also interviewed in the documentary are Liberty Roots Therapy founder Trevor Millar, who’s identified as an “opioid addiction expert”; Inner Realms Center founder Garyth Moxey, who’s identified as a “psychedelics provider”; and MAPS founder Rick Doblin, who’s identified as a “psychedelic researcher.” Most of the “experts” in the documentary are people with no medical licenses but who have started businesses to administer “psychedelic therapy,” when in reality they’re just glorified drug pushers. We’ll get to that issue in a moment.

Adrianne says in the documentary about her drug use: “I’m always on something, whether it’s prescribed by a doctor or prescribed by a drug dealer.” Based on the long list of drug prescriptions that Adrianne says she’s had over the years (including Zoloft, Lithium and Wellbutrin), in addition to her ongoing use of heroin and methadone, it’s incredibly infuriating that anyone would think she would be an ideal subject to experiment on like a human guinea pig. She has so many drugs in her system that so many things could go wrong. And the ER trip is proof that things went terribly wrong. Adrianne is lucky that she survived that health crisis.

Adrianne willingly participated in these experiments, but considering that she was not mentally or physically well for most of the documentary, her state of mind has to be called into question. And just as importantly, there’s no mention in the documentary that she ever told her doctor(s) that she was undergoing this psychedelic “treatment” (it’s implied that she kept it a secret from any doctors she has), which put her health further at risk. But hey, why worry about serious health dangers like that when you’ve got a documentary to make?

That isn’t the only secret that Adrianne keeps. For most of the documentary, she claims she’s only using heroin “occasionally” (whatever that means) and that the only drug she’s using daily is methadone. But one of the reasons why she ended up in the emergency room is because she lied and was actually still using heroin heavily during her “psychedelic therapy,” which is a type of “treatment” that is only supposed to be done when people don’t have serious drugs like heroin in their system. It’s only after she’s taken to the emergency room that she admits to lying about still using heroin on a regular basis.

Adrianne shouldn’t get all the blame, because she landed in the ER because of incompetence by the people who didn’t give her any medical tests before they allowed her to take psychedelic drugs. People who are truly experienced in treating drug addicts know that junkies often tell lies about their drug use. That’s why people who are in legitimate drug treatment get drug tested before any further drugs are put into their system.

But there is no sign of Adrianne getting drug tested before the psychedelic experiments are eagerly administered to her by the people who call themselves “experts” from this non-medical organization called Iboga Soul. One of the Iboga Soul people is identified as “registered nurse” Patrick Fishley, who apparently has no qualms about being seen on camera as someone involved in illegal drug activity, which is a serious violation of a nursing license.

Apparently, the people from Iboga Soul and anyone else who encouraged Adrianne to use illegal psychedelic drugs just took Adrianne’s word for it that she wasn’t doing heroin. And the result was she ended up in the emergency room. In one very telling scene, Iboga Soul manager Geoff Acres has a shocked and terrified look on his face when he finds out that Adrianne had to be taken to the emergency room after she got “dosed” with one of Iboga Soul’s “treatments.” It’s the kind of look where he seems to be thinking, “I hope she doesn’t die and I hope we don’t get sued.”

Not surprisingly, the movie shows Adrianne sending text messages to members of Iboga Soul to go to her home and find her drug stash to get rid of it. And the documentary does show them confiscating the drugs on camera. For the cameras, they make it look like getting rid of the drugs is all about Adrianne’s health. But let’s be real: It’s also about making sure the police don’t find any of her illegal drugs in case they show up at Adrianne’s home, which can happen after a drug addict is taken to the emergency room and tests positive for illegal drugs in their system.

One of the documentary’s many flaws is that it’s so aggressive about pushing its agenda that it doesn’t honestly investigate the things that have gone wrong with this type of psychedelic use. Yes, there could be people who might benefit from using psychedelics, but how many more (or less) people go through the same “treatment,” and it has terrible effects that make their health worse? The “Dosed” filmmakers never attempt to answer this question or try to get the other side of the story from people who’ve had bad experiences from seeking this type of “treatment.” However, the movie goes out of its way to present the pharmaceutical industry as being largely responsible for people’s bad experiences in seeking health treatment. It’s obvious that the “Dosed” filmmakers only want to present a psychedelic usage story with a “happy ending.”

When Adrianne describes some of the nauseating physical side effects that she’s experiencing after taking the psychedelics, “Dosed” director Chandler can be heard asking her off camera something like, “But you still feel pretty good, right? You aren’t depressed anymore, right?” At another point in the movie, she legitimately snaps at him when she tells him that he doesn’t understand addiction. In making this movie, Chandler seems to want to think that this type of “treatment” is a straight line to wellness, when in fact there are some terrifying zig zags that can go south very quickly.

And the disclaimer that the documentary has about how psychedelics like Iboga should be administered under medical supervision is almost laughable, when “Dosed” and other documentaries just like it show that the people making money off of running these “psychedelic therapy sessions” almost always do not have the medical qualifications to administer these psychedelic drugs and monitor their effects. Some of the “psychedelic therapists” might have good intentions to help people get better, but it seems like making money is the real intention. The push to make these treatments legal has a lot to do with people wanting to get rich off of it.

You don’t have to look any further than who’s being targeted for these psychedelic treatments: white people from the middle and upper classes. Time and time again, in documentaries like “Dosed” and “From Shock to Awe” and “Psyched Out,” the participants (the so-called “healers” and the patients) are not a diverse group of people from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds, but they’re almost exclusively white people who can not only afford to buy these drugs but they brazenly put themselves in documentary films that show them (and their real names) as actively participating in illegal drug activity.

If you consider that most people who use drugs in the U.S. and Canada are white (and the numerous documentaries on drug addicts in America prove it), but most people in jail for using drugs are not white and are usually poor, it shows how much of a racial and social divide there is, in terms of who’s most likely to end up in prison for being involved in illegal drugs and who isn’t. Of course, the “Dosed” filmmakers completely ignore this major problem because they wouldn’t have a movie if certain people didn’t feel comfortable flaunting their illegal drug activity and dressing it up as if they’re better than the people who go to jail for also selling or possessing illegal drugs. Adrianne certainly fits that “privileged” profile, since she’s seen taking illegal drugs on camera and she mentions that her divorced mother has paid for Adrianne’s multiple trips to rehab.

This entire movie has a “privileged blind spot” by failing to point out the obvious: If this “psychedelic movement” really cared about helping all drug addicts and all people with mental-health issues (since these problems affect people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds), it wouldn’t be targeting white people from the upper and middle classes to pay for these “services,” so there’s obviously a biased financial agenda behind this movement.

Ironically, the psychedelics that are being used in this agenda to target white North Americans have been used for centuries in predominantly non-white countries. Iboga and Ibocaine are made from a plant root in found in Africa, in countries like Gabon, and have been used in tribal psychedelic rituals. Mexican mushrooms are also a popular drug that’s being pushed in this psychedelic movement.

The members of the all-white Iboga Soul “psychedelic therapy group” even dress up in African clothing and use the same elements of African psychedelic rituals (tribal horns and incense paper torches) during their “therapy sessions,” which give a whole new meaning to “cultural appropriation.” If any people of color in the U.S. or Canada ever did this kind of illegal drug activity so openly in a documentary, see how fast they would be arrested.

Whether they call themselves “psychedelic administrators,” “psychedelic therapists” or “psychedelic providers,” if they’re encouraging people to use illegal drugs that could have dangerous consequences, they’re really just illegal drug pushers, but they do their drug deals in middle-class and upper-class homes, instead of stereotypical street corners. At one point in the film, Adrianne says something that is very true: Most people think drug addicts are the type of dirty, homeless junkies that you might see in crime-infested areas, when most drug addicts are actually functioning addicts who have jobs and aren’t poor.

“Dosed” also doesn’t properly address the differences in the health-care systems in Canada and the U.S., which have an effect on how drug addicts can get treatment in each nation. Canada has universal health care and usually has much lower costs for prescription drugs than the U.S does. A drug addict like Adrianne, who lives in Canada, doesn’t have to worry about paying for a trip to a hospital emergency room and she won’t get kicked out of a hospital because she can’t afford to pay the bill. As someone who has Canadian health insurance, she doesn’t have to worry about not being able to afford prescriptions because she doesn’t have the right insurance or because she no insurance. It’s yet another “blind spot” that this movie has that shows how unprofessionally this serious topic is handled by the filmmakers.

And even if “psychedelic therapy” became legal in the U.S., which is what a lot of its advocates are pushing for, it’s clear that it will probably be available only to the people who are privileged enough to afford it. That’s why it’s not being marketed to “everyone,” but only to certain people who fit a certain demographic.

The documentary also has a “holier than thou” attitude toward the pharmaceutical industry. Adrianne and other drug addicts like her can certainly make a case for how they’ve been over-prescribed prescription drugs. But at the end of the day, pharmaceutical companies and the “psychedelic providers” are drug pushers with the same agenda: get as many people as possible to buy your drugs on a regular basis, even if the side effects might damage some people’s health. It’s very hypocritical to pretend otherwise. At least you need a legitimate license to be a pharmacist, whereas the people who sell these “doses” of illegal psychedelics, under the guise of medical treatment, are not regulated at all.

The one time a drug test is shown briefly on camera is after Adrianne’s ER crisis. The test kit with negative results is quickly flashed on camera, and viewers are told that those are Adrianne’s test results. But for people who aren’t naïve enough to believe everything they see in a biased documentary, a couple of things are noticeable: We never actually see Adrianne take the test. And if she did take that drug test, how do we know she didn’t use someone else’s urine? (It’s a common way for drug addicts to fake their drug tests.) Given all the lies that Adrianne tells in this documentary, her statements should be taken with a huge grain of salt. If the filmmakers wanted to choose a “human guinea pig” for this documentary who would be credible and sympathetic, they picked the wrong person.

It should come as no surprise that at the end of the movie, Adrianne professes to be “sober” for a year, but then she also says she still uses illegal psychedelics on a regular basis. How is that being “sober”? But considering that Adrianne exposed herself in this documentary as a chronic and convincing liar who lied about all the heroin she was doing, it’s understandable if people watching this documentary question if she’s telling the truth about how “sober” she really is, thereby undermining the point that “Dosed” is trying to make.

Ironically, “psychedelic therapist” Howard says something before Adrianne’s ER medical crisis when commenting on the agenda that this movie is trying to push: “When people start getting ideas off of documentaries, that’s when things get dangerous. It is dangerous. We have seen enough to know that.”

Abramorama and Mangurama released “Dosed” on digital and VOD on March 20, 2020.